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Georgia State researcher to use $1 million grant to improve computer models for fighting wildfires

ATLANTA A Georgia State University professor has been selected to receive a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation to improve a computer simulation model that may help firefighters combat wildfires more effectively.

Xiaolin Hu, assistant professor of computer science, will receive the four-year award as part of the Cyber-enabled Discovery and Innovation program. The grant is funded by the recent federal economic stimulus package, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, and is set to start in January 2010.

Hu and colleagues at the University of Oklahoma and Texas A&M University are exploring ways to combine several simulation models into a larger model to eventually provide firefighters and their managers a decision-making tool that will allow aid in combating wildfires.

The combined model will allow for the simulation of the progression and spread of a fire, factoring in not only conditions including terrain, the type of vegetation that's burning, wind speed and humidity, but also the resources such as personnel and machinery that can be used to combat a fire.

Combining the wildfire, weather and operational models into a larger systems model is an incredibly complex task as the variables involved especially weather conditions are very dynamic, Hu said.

"Even with an update from a weather station each minute, the conditions are not going to be the same all of the time and across the whole area, and this is especially true in a wildfire situation," he said. "The weather is going to influence the wildfire, and the wildfire is going to influence the weather conditions. So, with this grant, we're trying to couple wildfire model with the weather model."

The integrated model also brings in many resource factors together, Hu said.

"We can take what we call firefighting resource characteristics as an input, as well as fire spreading data to perform a calculation to compute optimal resource deployment," Hu said. From there, the model will be able to simulate how the deployment of resources will work to suppress the fire.

Hu is also the recent recipient of the NSF's CAREER award in the amount of $425,000, an award aimed at young faculty to support their research.

Hu's research interest is to use computer modeling and simulation to study various types of systems. The complexities of these systems make computer modeling and simulation an increasingly important technology for understanding, analyzing, and predicting their dynamic behaviors.


Contact: Jeremy Craig
Georgia State University

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